Cosmetologist Lacie Ward measures Jeremy Behling's hair at 14 inches before trimming.
Cancer does not discriminate, it affects and devastates the lives of young and old, male and female, from every possible walk of life. Thankfully, kindness and giving also comes in many packages, demonstrated locally by this year's Locks of Love event. This past Saturday, individuals from every corner of the Castle Valley descended upon Utah State University Eastern's Cosmetology Department en-mass to give the gift of a full head of hair to those suffering from a variety of illnesses.
For nine years, the event has been a success; however in 2011 organizers helped motivate younger participants by offering free beauty treatment for all who donated. A twist that cosmetology department director Debbie Prichard hopes will plant the seed of a lifetime of giving back.
"The incredible thing to me is, I watch these little girls come in, they get their hair cut, they get some gloss put on their lips, their nails done, their picture taken, these are memories. These are great memories for these young people, all centered around giving," explained Prichard. "It's so important for our program because our students are learning how to give back as well; they are learning community service. It helps everyone all the way around."
Jeremy Behling of East Carbon decided to donate after losing a 27-year-old friend to cervical cancer several years ago. An event, he said changed his life in many ways. Because donors must have at least eight inches of hair to make a donation, the process can take several years of commitment.
"I was going to donate last year," said Behling but I was about an inch to short, so I kept it going for another year."
Because Behling's hair was long all over his head, the stylist was able to take three cuts from his scalp, totaling over 37 inches of hair for those in need.
Several of the event's youngest donors came in at the four-year-old mark, showing that there is no minimum age for harvest.
Chantel Hardy, four, of Wellington, originally wasn't into the program but had a change of heart after seeing her grandfather, Theron (Chub) Clark, lose his own hair during a recent battle with cancer.
"She wanted to donate her hair directly to her grandfather," said mother Mindy Hardy with a laugh, while her daughter's hair was being styled. "However, we talked her into giving it to the program because her grandfather is an older guy who doesn't really care if he's bald. Someone else could make much better use of the hair."
Following her donation, Hardy was treated to a glam shot, before and after picture, a manicure, lip gloss treatment and style.
While the event is a character building program for those who donate as well as the stylists who work the project, it also provides a large amount of hair for those in need.
"It's not just cancer patients who need this hair," said Prichard. "There are so many diseases which cause hair loss, such as alopecia which effects both the young and old."
All stylists, with the exception of one professional hair cutter, were former students with the local department showing the lasting commitment within this program. Stylists from Scissor Talk, Bellasano, Don Marcos and Smart Style donated their time this year.
Many of the current USU-Eastern Cosmetology students also participated in the event, a statistic that is impressive if you look at the hours a local cosmetology student puts in every week.
"We don't have normal students schedules here in the cosmetology department," explained Pritchard. "Our students are here 40 hours a week. So for them to come in for a full day on Saturday, is a real commitment. These girls are the future owners of the area's local salons and it is so vital that they learn the importance of giving back to the community that supports them."
Giving back is something the event's major organizer knows about in spades. For the second straight year, Melanie Huff, with the help of her daughter Lexi, made the Locks of Love event a blockbuster.
"She has taken this event to the next level," said Prichard. "She works very hard to make sure we get every bit of exposure and participation we can. For the second straight year it seems like she worked on Locks of Love all year around."
Many in attendance stated that the department was packed just after 9 a.m., and that they stayed relatively busy throughout the day. And while final harvest statistics where not available at the time this article went to press, event organizers where hopeful that the 2011 totals would go above and beyond 2010's 53 donations which yielded 77 and a quarter feet of hair.